Once the decision has been made to get divorced for some couples the next question should be ‘’where should I get divorced? ‘’. Why? Well if there is more than one choice of country in which you can start divorce proceedings the country you chose could have a major impact on the amount you either pay or receive in the divorce financial settlement. That’s why it is vital to get early specialist divorce and financial advice from divorce solicitors.

Divorce Choice of Country

The importance of the divorce choice of country has been highlighted in the recently reported Court of Appeal case of Catja and Oliver Thum. The couple were arguing over whether Mrs Thum could continue her English divorce proceedings or whether Mr Thum should be able to continue his German divorce proceedings.
Unless you are a divorce solicitor you would probably assume that a ‘’divorce is a divorce‘’ in whatever country you chose to get divorced in so why spend time and lots of money in legal fees on arguing whether the divorce proceedings continue in England or Germany.
In reality the Thum Court of Appeal case was about money and the divorce financial claims. If Mrs Thum was allowed by the Court to continue her English divorce proceedings this would mean that she’d be able to launch a financial claim against her multi-millionaire banker husband in the English Courts. The English divorce Court has the reputation of being far more generous in financial awards than divorce Courts in other countries.

Is it worth a divorce race to start divorce proceedings in a divorce country of choice?

The decision to start divorce proceedings shouldn’t be rushed but for some spouses delay in starting divorce proceedings can result in their spouse seizing the financial advantage by starting divorce proceedings in their choice of country.

The questions to ask are:
• I am certain that I want to get divorced? If you are not 100% certain the decision to quickly start divorce proceedings in your preferred country may mean that it makes it harder to reconcile if that is what you later decide that is what you would like to do;
• Is it likely that my spouse will be honest about his or her finances and want to reach a fair financial settlement? If your spouse is likely to want to reach a reasonable financial agreement then starting early divorce proceedings in your choice of country might alienate them and make it harder to reach a financial agreement. However if your spouse isn’t likely to be honest about the family finances then issuing speedy divorce proceedings in your choice of divorce Court where the Court has strong powers to order financial disclosure and enforce financial orders may be in your interests;
• Do I know where either of us could start divorce proceedings and the financial implications to me of my spouse starting the divorce proceedings in the country of their choice? If you don’t know the answer to this question it is really important to get speedy advice from a divorce solicitor on the potential choices of country in which the divorce proceedings could be started as well as the types and range of financial orders that could be made in each country where the divorce proceedings could potentially be issued;
• Is it financially worth starting divorce proceedings in my choice of country? Sometimes racing to start divorce proceedings in your choice of country isn’t justified in terms of the size of the financial award against any extra legal costs that might arise in arguing over the country where the divorce should be heard. In the case of Mrs Thum the legal costs of divorce solicitors taking the case to the Court of Appeal were justified to her because of the likely difference in approach to the division of family assets and the size of the financial award between the English Court and her husband’s preferred choice of the German Court to deal with their divorce proceedings.

International divorce and divorce solicitors

If there is potentially more than one country in which divorce proceedings could be started it is important that you choose your divorce solicitors with care. Why? Not all divorce solicitors have experience of international divorce proceedings and choice of Court jurisdictions or always appreciate the need for speed to avoid a spouse starting the divorce proceedings in a country that isn’t favourable to you.
How do you chose a specialist divorce solicitor for an international divorce? A good start point is to find a solicitor who is a member of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, a worldwide association of family and divorce solicitors who are recognised as experts in their field in their countries of practice. The divorce solicitor won’t be able to tell you the exact divorce laws and the difference in approach to financial claims on divorce in Australia, South Africa or Sweden but they will be able to readily obtain expert opinions and advice from fellow members of the International Academy of Family Lawyers as they are well used to the need for speedy expert divorce advice in international divorces.

As for the Thum’s divorce proceedings now the decision has been taken that the English Court has jurisdiction to finalise the divorce proceedings and resolve Mrs Thum’s financial claims it is hoped that Mr and Mrs Thum will be able to negotiate a financial settlement based on the likely parameters of an English divorce financial Court award.

For advice and information about divorce proceedings and financial claims in international divorce please call me on +44 (0) 1477 464020 or email me at robin@evolvefamilylaw.co.uk